The Columbia Plateau Seminar


The Columbia Plateau Seminar


HIST 497/597
Washington State University
Fall 2010
Professor: Jeff Sanders

Course Description and Goals

The Columbia Plateau is a significant geologic, geographic, and social region encompassing large portions of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and Idaho. One of its defining features, the Columbia River drainage system, further connects the region to southwestern Canada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Through its history, the Greater Columbia Plateau has experienced dramatic environmental, social, and cultural transformations. In this course we will explore two fundamental aspects of Columbia Plateau history: the nature of human interactions and the relationship between humans and the environment. Human interactions include migrations, the treatment of indigenous peoples, militarization, trans-national relations, the struggle between labor and capital, and the politics of inclusion and exclusion. Among the human-environmental relations we will emphasize are environmental degradation and rehabilitation, the perception and construction of (sometimes contending) cultural landscapes and senses of place, industrial agriculture, tourism, and water development.

This fall you will begin participation in a year-long hybrid seminar for graduate and undergraduate students that will explore the cultures and the environments of the Greater Columbia Plateau from multiple disciplinary points of view. We will begin by discussing different theories and methods for understanding regions and places before focusing on and developing the main subject areas for this first year: Plateau Cultural Landscapes, Making the Plateau Bloom, and the Atomic Plateau. During each three to four week period we will focus on readings related to these subject areas. We will have guests from various departments within the university (Sociology, English, Engineering, etc.) introduce their approaches to the region. We will make field trips to important sites (Walla Walla, Grand Coulee, and Hanford) for study and documentation. We will invite visiting scholars from outside the university to speak.

By the last weeks of this fall seminar and leading into the spring, we will begin to consider in more concrete ways how to organize a multi-tiered digital archive that includes the processing of Columbia Plateau-related collections within the WSU Manuscripts and Special Collections and ultimately the creation of a website that highlights these collections as well as the work that WSU faculty and students are doing and which is related to the Columbia Plateau. The spring seminar will therefore build on the expertise and understandings that we develop in the fall. By spring we will begin to put those understandings into action as part of a lasting project that will serve the general public and the WSU community for years to come.


Trevor Bond (WSU)
Sketch map, Columbia River region (1885)
1 map ; 39 x 38 cm.Relief shown by hachuresShows the Columbia River region in the Pacific Northwest. Shows the area by a broken black line. Shows mountains, lakes and towns Appendix TT: Improvement of the Willamette River above Portland, Oregon --…
Map of south eastern Washington Territory compiled from  official surveys and published by Eastwick, Morris & Co. ; drawn by John  Hanson, (1878)
1 map col. ; 65 x 88 cm. Scale [1:68,760]. 1 in. to 6 miles. Shows roads, rail roads in operation, projected rail roads, post offices, and saw mills. The Yakima Indian reservation, at the lower left corner of this map, was created in 1855. In…
Sketch Map from Government Plats. (1900)
1 map: 32 x 58 cm.Scale: 2 in. = 1 mile.Red lines indicate irrigation ditches and flumes.In 1896 the Lewiston Water and Power Company began work on a series of ditches and flumes which would carry water from Asotin Creek into the area that would…
Kearby and the Hanford Bus
Kearby Chase looking good in front of a bus that workers took to work at Hanford. This bus is in Richland, Washington at the museum there.
Kearby gets on the bus
Keaby gets on the bus as the owner looks wistfully on.
Canyon wall from Oregon side
View of the canyon wall on the Oregon side showing Celilo Falls
View of Celilo Falls
View of Celilo Falls- Homes of Indians and Indians Fishing
Celilo Cable Car
Cable car transportation from shore to fishing islands.
Cable car at Celilo to Fishing Islands
Cable car transportation from shore to fishing islands
Indians Fishing from Platforms at Celilo
Indians fishing from platforms at Celilo Falls. Supported by cables anchoring near the lips of narrow canyons where fishing is best, the wooden platforms are lowered down the canyon walls within easy reach of the roaring torrent of water.
Indians Dip Netting
Indians pulling in salmon with dip net. Note how net collapses.
Precarious fishing spot.
Precarious Fishing Spot. Note cable car, falls, and platform.
Fishing from Bank and Platforms
In September, when the run is on, Indians from many tribes fish on bank. By Concentrating their fishing during the months when the adult salmon are fighting their way up the river to spawn, the Indian fishermen are assured of large catches of…
Making Nets
Indians making own nets
Dip Bag Net
Close-up view of dip bag net.
Dip Net Bag Fishing
Indian Fishing with dip bag net. Not rope around Indian.
Net With Salmon
Indian pulls dip bag net out of water with salmon. Note net does not collapse.
Chinook Salmon
Indian holding two heavy Chinook salmon which he will sell.